By the time you read this, the world will have been informed of the brand new '06 Z06 Corvette. As we go to press, much of the data about this tremendous car has been leaked and posted all over the Internet. Some of it is close to fact and some is just plain wrong. While we can't control that process, we can give you firsthand knowledge of what we were provided by Chevrolet at the Z06 Backgrounder, held near Detroit on November 9, 2004.
When we got the invitation to this gathering of magazine editors (and rabid press dogs) from all over the United States, yours truly couldn't wait to get to Detroit to see what Chevrolet had come up with for the new Z06. At the event, Chevrolet unveiled a new yellow Z06, the new LS7 427 engine, and the new C6-R race car. While we were not allowed to take photos, we were given a press kit, along with a strict embargo date of January 10, 2005 at 12:01 a.m.
We're waiting for Chevrolet to ship a new Z06 for us to road test, but for now we'll discuss what we know.
The Z06 Corvette comes from a long line of Corvette performance-oriented options almost from the day of the car's inception. While the '63 Z06 was a full-on racing option based on the split-window coupe, the '01 Z06 was a model all its own, resurrected in the fall of 2000 as a third body style for the '01 model year. The Z06 option offered 385 hp from the new LS6 engine versus the standard 350 hp of the LS1. The LS6 nomenclature recalled the mighty 425hp, 427ci, aluminum-head big-block option of 1971. Z06 exterior colors were limited to black and red. The '02 Z06 was again reworked and rated at 405 hp, which was achieved by removing two of the pre-catalytic converters in the exhaust system. Induction was improved and high-lift camshafts were installed, acting on a lightweight valve gear. The '03-'04 Z06 Corvette continued to improve, mostly with various suspension upgrades. In 2006, an all-new Corvette Z06 will debut that's faster and has more power than any previous GM production vehicle.
When the cover was pulled from the new Z06, it was evident it was a completely new and improved "animal." It has an unmistakable and aggressive appearance, with design cues that include a wide front fascia with a large, forward-facing grille opening, a splitter along the bottom, and "Gurney lips" along the sides to provide aerodynamic downforce. There is a cold airscoop in front of the hood that integrates an air-inlet system for the new LS7 engine. The trailing edge of the front wheel opening is radiused to achieve improved drag, but protects the body finish with a tough molding, with a large air extractor behind the wheel.
The Z06 continues to use a fixed-roof body style, which optimizes body rigidity and aerodynamics. Wider rear fenders with flares cover the massive rear tires, and a brake-cooling scoop in front of the wheels visually balances the fender extractor. Believe it or not, the car now carries a tall rear spoiler on the rear fascia, housing the CHMSL. The Z06 also carries specific 10-spoke wheels, four larger stainless steel exhaust outlets, and new-design Z06 badging on the front fenders.
"The Z06 has been sculpted very carefully, with every element in its design serving a performance function. It also has a purposeful, menacing resemblance to the C6-R," said Dave Hill, Corvette's chief engineer.
The aerodynamics of the Z06's exterior were literally shaped by the experiences of the Corvette racing program, where high-speed stability and cornering capability are paramount. And while the race cars use large rear wings, the Z06's elevated spoiler provides sufficient downforce to balance the roadworthy front splitter without adversely affecting aerodynamic drag. The Z06's Cd is .31.